I’ve been talking with members and AVMA leaders about the many ways in which we’ve been engaging members in our website redesign process. It’s a really important piece of the project because we need to make sure the website works for members – i.e., gets you the information you need, and lets you complete online tasks, both quickly and efficiently.
Here are some of the ways in which we’ve included members in the process:
Website survey and focus groups
More than a year ago, we surveyed members, both through email and on the website itself, to get information about how you use the current site, your experience with and concerns about the site, and your general interests and needs when working online.
A survey invitation was emailed to a large sample of members for whom we have email addresses; we also provided an opportunity for all members who visited the website to take the same survey while they were there. The survey questions included such things as:
- what content members use (or even know about) on our website;
- when and why members turn to other websites for information;
- whether members use or are interested in using blogs, wikis and other collaborative online tools; and
- how extensively members use mobile devices, texting, social media and other online tools.
We followed the survey with a series of four focus groups with members, to discuss some of the survey findings in greater depth. The focus groups allowed us to dig deeper and get more anecdotal insight into some of the issues identified by the survey, and to explore the reasons behind some of the patterns we saw. Where the survey allowed us to ask what and when, the focus group allowed us to delve more deeply into why and how.
Card-sorting exercises to help define the website structure
We’ve also turned to members twice for tests to help us determine how the wide range of content on the website (more than 25,000 pages) should be organized. We know the website has outgrown its current structure, and it can be hard to find what you’re looking for; we want to make sure the new site is optimized to get you very quickly to the information you want.
So we’ve conducted two card-sorting exercises, in which we asked member volunteers to sort through a list of topics we cover on the current website and sort them into logical groups. One card-sorting exercise was conducted in November and early December; another, slightly different one was done in early March. Several hundred members volunteered for these tests.
More member help is still needed
As we get started actually building the new website, we’ll have more occasions to ask members to join in. Usability testing is critical to any website redesign, and we’ll definitely need members to help us with that — to make sure the new site meets your needs. There also might be additional points at which we ask members to take a look at specific sections or applications that we are building, to make sure those are headed in the right direction. (As a past example, when we launched our new online store in January we asked members to participate in beta testing to help us identify any potential problems or pain points.)
If you’re interested in participating in any of these efforts, please log into our Member E-mail Subscription Center and opt-in to receive emails about “AVMA volunteer/leadership opportunities” (near the bottom of the page). That’s a list we turn to when we’re looking for members willing to volunteer some time to help us out, whether for the website redevelopment project or something else.